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Aim High: Understanding the Driving Force Behind Meaningful Actions

Updated: Feb 6

This is the seventh article in a series on the elements of meaning. We explore what makes up meaning and its role in shaping behavior. Previous articles covered the definitions of meaning and its components (construct): Attributions, Beliefs, Values, Feelings, and Attitudes. This article focuses on the meaning factor "Aim" and its role in the construct.

Defining "Aim" in the Meaning Construct:

In logoteleology, meaning is defined as an Aim backed by causes. Nothing can happen without a cause. Meaning has two tasks: generating a reason (cause) and committing to an Aim. Understanding the "why" or causes is crucial to comprehend human behavior and its consequences. With this understanding, we can examine the quality of what we attribute, believe, and value to regulate and decide. The outcome of this examination is to validate that we are either on the right track or notice opportunities for improvement.

Example: Fae is having difficulty with a work assignment. She cannot solve a technical problem. Fae asks her supervisor, “What is it that I do not know that if I did, I would solve this problem with ease?” After answering a few questions, Fae and her supervisor agree that she lacks the knowledge to solve it and that they should Aim to send Fae to the right training program. Hence, the Aim is to attend training for the sake or cause of a lack of knowledge.

Nothing can happen without a cause.

Reasons, motives, and justifications (causes) precede and produce the meaning's Aim.
~ Logoteleology Axioms ~

Aim as the Team Leader and Facilitator of Meaning:

Aim acts like a team leader, coordinating the meaning’s attributions, beliefs, values, feelings, and attitudes to form a cohesive and purposeful direction. An effective Aim facilitates harmony among these components, ensuring they work together effectively and help produce an effective and meaningful decision. When there is disagreement among the meaning components, there will be confusion or cognitive dissonance. You have experienced this when debating yourself or what we call “self-talk.” Hence, we need to have an assertive and high-quality Aim to facilitate the exchange of all the meaning components to reach a harmonious and meaningful conclusion on what to do.

Example: Following Fae’s situation, because of her incompetence (attributions), Fae felt anxious and guilty (feelings), and there were times when she felt like quitting (attitude). These feelings and attitudes were the outcome of lacking the right type of knowledge (belief) and knowing in her heart that she was not meeting the standards of performance (values) expected of her. However, because she was able to see clearly a way out, she committed to asking for help from her supervisor (Aim).

Aim as Gateway to Action:

Aim serves as the gateway to action, determining if an action aligns with the individual's meaning. It acts as a filter, allowing only actions that contribute positively to a sense of meaning. Once the Aim can get all the necessary information by gaining cooperation and consensus of all the meaning components, it can proceed to commit to act.

Example: After her last frustrating episode with the work assignment, her self-talk was as follows:

Aim: Okay, team. We need to figure out what to do with the inability to solve the problem. Belief, what do you have to say?

Belief: The fact is that it takes me a long time to solve the problem. I believe I lack knowledge.

Aim: Great fact! Value, what do you have to say?

Value: Well, the standard is to solve the problem within an hour. We are not meeting that standard.

Belief: You are correct. We seem to fail at meeting the standard because we lack knowledge. Attribution, what do you have to contribute?

Attribution: I would like to see myself as a responsible and dependable contributor. This failure is ruining my reputation! Belief, please hurry up and do something about it!

Aim: I hear you, Attribution. Feeling, what’s with you?

Feeling: Folks, I feel terrible. I can’t sleep at night, tormented with feelings of guilt and fear. Please, stop my misery!

Aim: You have my empathy, Feeling. We will figure this out. Ok, Attitude, how are you tilting?

Attitude: I am with Feeling. I want out. Move me away from this painful experience! I want to avoid this at all costs!

Aim: Okay, my fellow components. This should be simple. This situation hurts, we do not want to continue feeling and performing this way, and all because we lack knowledge. So, let’s give Belief a helping hand here to make this go away and thrive instead. If there are no disagreements, Beliefs, how can you close the knowledge gap?

Belief: I can get help from my supervisor. He can train me or send me to someone who can.

Aim: Sounds reasonable to me! All in favor, raise your hand and call out “aye” in favor of the motion.

All: (An enthusiastic) Aye!

Aim: The chair sees all hands being raised; hence, there are no objections. The proposal is unanimously approved, and we will Aim to have a talk with the supervisor to solve this problem. Meeting adjourned!

Next problem, please!

Nothing gets through and done without the Aim-meaning type acting as a gateway.
 ~ Logoteleology Axiom ~

Gateway to meaning

Role of Aim in Judgment:

A strong Aim produces effective decisions based on reliable information. The quality of information within the meaning determines the quality of the outcome. An effective Aim recognizes and corrects errors before proceeding.

Example: Notice in the example of Fae that the data presented is truthful and reliable. Hence, the collection of components was able to move forward. But what if one or more of the components were incorrect or unable to read the situation wisely? For example, what if Attribution, Belief, and Feeling conspired to take the position that getting help from the supervisor would be showing weakness and confessing to being incompetent? “Garbage in – Garbage out.”

Types of Aim: Aim-intent and Aim-goal:

Aim-intent is characterized by prudence, uncertainty, or weakness, often leading to delayed decision-making and even procrastination. Do you remember a moment when you did not take action because you lacked the necessary information? It is prudent to wait until you have all the required data. An Aim-intent is an intention or unfulfilled need or want. The person is still pondering and ideally working to fill the lack of facts before deciding to act.

However, an Aim-intent betrays a dysfunctional meaning when it stuns a person from acting. One or more of the components of the meaning are not collaborating; hence, there is meaning paralysis.

Example: As mentioned previously, suppose that Fae’s shame and fear of confessing incompetence to the supervisor is stronger than the current frustration of not being able to perform well (You’d be amazed how frequently this happens!). As long as fear and shame override courage and transparency, Fae will not solve the problem.

Aim-goal brings strength and initiative. It can also include confidence, assuming there is good data and collaboration amongst the components of meaning. We learned this in the example of Fae’s components in dialogue and effective problem-solving. When the Aim-goal is well-informed, it has the potential to fuel an intrinsic or willing desire to take action. Again, this is possible because there is good data and cooperation amongst the components of meaning.

Arousal enhances whatever response tendency is dominant.
~ Principle of experiential psychology ~

However, an Aim-goal, too, can be ineffective when the data is either absent, incomplete, or flawed. We see this in compulsive behavior. This negative compulsory drive is seen in conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), where actions are driven by intense, involuntary urges, disrupting daily life.

But not all compulsions are negative. The positive compulsory drive can be observed in the instinct of self-preservation, where actions are instinctive responses for survival. For instance, there is nothing wrong with running away from a situation where you hear firearms being discharged. It is a natural and prudent preservation instinct that serves us well.

Relevance: Understanding the difference between Aim-intent and Aim-goal is of great importance and value. For instance, a company that wishes to understand why they experience high employee turnover or high-engagement and satisfaction will find practical answers through the analysis of the meaning’s components. Why employees Aim to stay or leave an organization is deeply linked to the meaning they give to how they experience work. What we Aim for touches all areas of our lives. Ultimately, we are logoteleological or goal-directed by meanings.

We are logoteleological or goal-directed by meanings.
~ Logoteleology Axiom ~

Conclusion: Aim High: Understanding the Driving Force Behind Meaningful Actions

Understanding and cultivating a high-quality Aim is essential for directing one's life purposefully. Aim high and ensure your Aim leads to meaningful actions aligned with your attributes, values, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes.

Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose: Discovering Life's Answers. ™


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